Parshas Balak: Ani Ma'amin...The Geula of Moshiach
In the second of this week’s double parshios, Parshas Balak, we learn of King Balak who hired Bilaam, whose last name is rasha (wicked), to curse the Bnei Yisrael.
The Israelites are in year forty of their desert wanderings, the first generation (who sinned in the Sin of the Spies) has died out (see Rashi to Bamidbar 20:1), and this next generation will soon enter into the Holy Land under the leadership of Yehoshua. As the Bnei Yisrael have begun to conquer the lands surrounding Eretz Yisrael (see the end of Parshs Chukas), King Balak fears the might of Am Yisrael.
While Bilaam is hired to curse the Jews, he is unable to do so, and time and again, when he opens his mouth to begin to speak curses, blessings - the word of G-d - come forth. Amongst his most famous blessings are מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל, how goodly are your tents O Yaakov, your dwelling place Israel; as well as כִּי-מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ, וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ: הֶן-עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן, וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב, from the top of rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him, it is a nation that dwells alone, and shall not be reckoned amongst the nations (Bamidbar 24:5 and 23:9, respectively).
Towards the end of his attempts to curse the Israelites, Bilaam prophesies and declares: אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה, אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב; דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב, וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, וּמָחַץ פַּאֲתֵי מוֹאָב, וְקַרְקַר כָּל-בְּנֵי-שֵׁת - I see it, but not now; I view it, but it is not near. A star shot forth from Jacob, and a rod has risen from Israel, and he shall strike down the extremities of Moav and undermine all the children of Shes (24:17).
On this verse, Targum Onkelos explains: חֲזִיתֵיהּ וְלָא כְעַן סְכִיתֵיהּ וְלָא אִיתוֹהִי קָרִיב כַּד יְקוּם מַלְכָּא מִיַּעֲקֹב וְיִתְרַבָּא מְשִׁיחָא מִיִּשְׁרָאֵל וְיִקְטוֹל רַבְרְבֵי מוֹאָב וְיִשְׁלוֹט בְּכָל בְּנֵי אֱנָשָׁא, I see him, but not now; I behold him, but he is not near; when a king shall arise from Jacob, and מְשִׁיחָא מִיִּשְׁרָאֵל, the annointed one from Israel, then he will kill the princes of Moav and rule over all of mankind.
Here we have a prophecy regarding the end of days, which is seen by Bilaam, but not yet close.
Why is the Moshiach, the Anointed One, who will shoot forth from Yaakov, compared to a כּוֹכָב, a star? The Ramban writes: דרך כוכב מיעקב בעבור כי המשיח יקבץ נדחי ישראל מקצה הארץ ימשילנו לכוכב הדורך ברקיע מקצה השמים - A star has shot forth from Yaakov - because the Moshiach will gather in all of the scattered of Israel from the ends of the earth, he is compared to a star, that shoots across the ends of the heavens (Ramban to Bamidbar 24:17).
The belief in the coming of Moshiach - I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though he may tarry, with all of this, I will wait for him each day that comes - stems from the nevuah of Bilaam.
As the world today descends further and further into chaos, mayhem, confusion and the unknown, we are reminded that the star of Moshaich will shoot forth, and will gather in the exiles, and redeem our nation, our Land - and this world - from the tohu va’vo’hu which currently reigns.
In a masterful article, published in Mishpacha Magazine, Shavuos edition, R’ Aaron Lopiansky shlita writes of Moshiach, and what exactly we are waiting for (based on the Rambam’s principles at the end of his Yad HaChazakah).
1. “Moshiach will restore our nationhood by reinstating a central authority. We are no longer/not yet a nation in the full sense… Without Moshiach, we have no head, no authority, no structure, no enforcement. We can have rousing speeches, ringing kol-korehs, an inspirational Siyum Ha’Shas, and stern admonitions, but we do only what we wish to do… Yes, thankfully we have our gedolei Torah, but even that seems to be subjective. From those who point to ‘The Moetzes’ as ‘leadership,’ I would ask, do you mean Agudah’s Moetzes, Degel’s Moetzes, Peleg’s Moetzes, or Shas’ Moetzes? Is it the Crown Heights Beis Din? And what about Satmar and others who do not subscribe to any of the above? And Centrist Orthodox and Modern Orthodox? And the many Yidden who do not fit into any of those categories?
2. “Mosiach will restore the wholeness of the Jewish People. While we Torah-observant Jews rightfully take pride in our achievements, the vast, vast majority of Klal Yisrael is evaporating… If we are missing 90% or even ‘just’ 80%, or even one soul, then we are not Klal Yisrael! …Klal Yisrael is the sum total of all of us, and we are, therefore, missing 90% of our ‘self.’
3. “Moshiach will restore Torah to Klal Yisrael. At best (in galus) we keep a minority of mitzvos. We do not observe Kodshim, Taharos, much of Zeraim, Sanhedrin, Knasos, and on and on. True, it’s not our fault, but if we genuinely believe that (the performance of) mitzvos perfect a man, we are woefully lacking. Moshiach will restore all of the mitzvos that were performed at the time of the Beis Ha’Mikdash.
4. “Moshiach will restore the Divine Presence… One Tisha B’Av, I heard this point powerfully presented by R’ Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik. He said, ‘People say to me: We have Eretz Yisrael, Yerushalayim, even the Kosel. Why are we still mourning?’ He said, ‘I reply to them and say: Have you ever seen an estranged son sitting at his father’s table? There is only one foot of distance between their bodies, but a thousand miles between their hearts! This creates an unbearable tension, intensified, not ameliorated, by their physical presence. So too, to be so close (to Hashem in our times), yet so estranged…’
“When we wish for Moshiach to pay our bills, heal our ailments, or help us with any other of our myriad needs, is that called yearning for Moshiach?…” (Mishpacha, Issue 812, p.47-51)
דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב, וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל - While we certainly yearn for his arrival each and every day, let us remember what Moshiach will bring to our nation and to our world, and the glory that will be restored to Am Yisrael, Toras Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, when the star shoots forth from Yaakov and the rod is established from Israel.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום.